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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How To Become The Best At Anything

Via Seth Godin's Blog:

According to Malcolm Gladwell's new book, Outliers: The Story of Success:
  1. Where you're born and when you're born impact your level of success.
  2. Becoming a superstar takes about 10,000 hours of hard work.
  3. Points #1 and #2 are far more important than magical talent.
I can't change where and when I was born, but I can work hard at becoming a superstar.

I did the math: 10,000 hours equates to about 416 days, or 1.1 years, of non-stop practice. If you practiced for only eight hours a day (the average work-day), it would take you 1,250 days (3.4 years) to reach 10,000 hours. Practice four hours a day and it would be 2,500 days (6.8 years). Practice two hours and you need 5,000 days (13.6 years).

Seth points out that not every niche needs 10,000 hours to accomplish greatness. The more established a market is, Seth says, the harder it becomes to get through "The Dip." If the market is small or novel, The Dip is shallower and requires fewer hours to establish credibility and to be perceived as the best. From Seth's post:
Yo Yo Ma isn't perfect... he's just better than everyone else. He pushed through the Dip that others chose not to. I'm guessing that there are endeavors (like being CEO of a Fortune 500 company or partner at a big law firm) where the rewards are so huge that the number is closer to 20,000 hours or more to get through the Dip.

The Dip that Seth refers to is the period of time when a new project seems hopeless and doomed to failure. The Dip is similar to "Stage 3: Crisis of Meaning" in an entrepreneur's emotional cycle. Get past The Dip and glory abounds!

I agree with Seth's assessment of the 10,000-hour mark. Still, the mark helps put effort into perspective and gives us an objective goal to reference against our progress.

For example, I've been a Certified Personal Trainer for at least two years, working mostly part-time. This means I've acquired roughly 2,080 hours of experience, or 20% of my 10,000 hour goal, toward becoming a superstar.

Now suppose we deconstruct, Tim Ferriss-style, what it takes to become a successful trainer. What are the steps involved? What milestones would I need to achieve before I became an established and sought-after expert in my field? More importantly, what are we defining as "success?"

I leave the answers to those questions for a later post.

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